Interviewed by: Maura Schafer
Robert Arbour, president of Triple Net Equities, Inc. and Karl Fielding, environmental planner with PBS&J, are leading the effort to put together this fall’s FutureBuildLA, ULI-LA’s Green Conference and Expo, that will be held on Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Arbour and Fielding lead a diverse group of professionals who make up the volunteer committee that is planning a day-long event with keynote speakers, breakout sessions, roundtable discussions and trade show exhibitors, all designed to create a marketplace of ideas for implementing sustainable design in Los Angeles’ built environment.
Q. Tell us about your background and how you each came to be involved as Chairman and Program Director of the FutureBuildLA planning committee.
Arbour: A few years ago, I was talking with my friend David Waite about wanting to find more meaning in my work. While I have a successful business that focuses on single tenant net leased commercial real estate, I was looking for more. About that time, I attended a green conference where Bill Clinton spoke about finding what is good for the world and good for the bottom line. Having started and chaired with ULI-LA Urban Marketplace ten years ago, I began to think about how the ULI-LA could bring thinking and practical solutions for sustainability to the Los Angeles development community. I suggested the creation of a green conference for the ULI-LA to David, who asked me to join him on the Program Committee for ULI-LA, for which he is the chair. Last year, we debuted this program with considerable success.
Fielding: Working as an environmental planner and having graduated from USC with majors in environmental studies and political science, I was eager to learn more about the development community in Los Angeles. I attended the ULI-LA Urban Marketplace and was so impressed with the caliber of the program that I was compelled to become involved with the organization. I volunteered to head up the program committee for the inaugural FutureBuildLA event that took place last fall and I have been an active member of the ULI ever since. This year, I am the Program Director for FutureBuildLA 2010. I work with a team of talented volunteers, ULI members from all areas of real estate development in Los Angeles. We are coordinating and implementing the keynote speakers, plenary sessions and roundtable participants.
Q. There are several great examples of sustainable development either underway or already completed close to home as well as around the world. Tell us about one or more that you admire.
Arbour: I read about a project that constructed the roof first so that the solar panels would provide power for all of the building’s needs, starting with construction.
Fielding: I am very passionate about transportation issues and so I tend to pay more attention to those than to the buildings themselves, so I was surprised by and in admiration of the L.A. Convention Center. While looking at it as the venue for FutureBuildLA, I learned that it has had many green retrofits, such as solar power and other. I am from Seattle and I admire the public library there. I was impressed with the level of sustainability that I have read about at the recently opened CityCenter in Las Vegas, despite that it is a large development. It brings up important questions of sustainable design compared to overall land use impacts.
Q. Developers are looking for best ways to go green. What ideas do you have for them that provide both benefit to the environment and to the bottom line?
Fielding: One way to start is to look for smaller changes that can result in big savings. Shoring up insulation, replacing HVAC and windows, can make a difference. Start with what is achievable and leverage changes to your advantage by using them as a part of your marketing.
Arbour: While there are certainly bottom line benefits associated with saving energy and re-using materials, for instance, it is the increased marketability of the development that I would encourage developers to consider. There have been studies that have documented substantially higher rents that green buildings can attract.
Q. What do you consider to be the highlight of the day at FutureBuildLA?
Fielding: We are working to bring very exciting speakers from diverse backgrounds to the event. This is a great opportunity for development professionals to learn all the ways that they may be able to go green. We plan to have representatives from the city and state level who will explain the various codes and how to comply with them.
Arbour: The event is a marketplace of ideas where businesses can go to find and develop new opportunities. In the past year, I have been working on a new venture, Earthvest, a partnership that helps government entities to retrofit to energy efficient power, ultimately saving them money and raising their profile. This is so critical to California given the state and city budget crises. We help these entities by presenting them with a package of services that includes professional retrofitting, projected benefit analysis and a solution for raising the money necessary to complete the retrofit. For this business, I have found resources through my participation in FutureBuildLA.